It’s not uncommon for your Facebook newsfeed to be flooded with posts dishing out mainstream self help advice from time to time. Stuff like ‘When you’re in love, you don’t walk away when things get hard’. Or, ‘I don’t love you yet, but I know I could’.
When I see one of these articles popup, I know it’s going to be generic advice. . Sometimes they sound like merely a bunch of emo guys or girls going on and on and on. If I’m curious enough, I’ll peek inside. Usually, I’ll end up with a mental face palm. I got to say it, I don’t like mainstream self help advice. It’s just not for me, especially the stuff published many other content magazines.
However, it’s what sells. Positivity sells. Stuff like, failure, be nice to everyone, smile more often and etc. No one likes to read about ugly truths or failures. If someone published a book on that, it’s highly likely that it’s not going to sell.
Whenever I hear friends using big words such as ‘follow your passion’, ‘living a life of abundance’ or ‘the law of attraction’, I don’t say anything, however I secretly do a mental face palm. It gets worst when you combine all of these with a free loving hippie yogi. If he or she is willing to give me a listen, I’ll go on and give them the reasons why I think the majority of self help advice sucks.
Self Help is Not Scientifically Validated
Well, most of the self help material out there isn’t scientifically validated.
Let me ask you, which advice would you rather? Tens of years of research or an 18-year-old girl dishing out advice on some random internet magazine? Unfortunately, it’s the latter that gets shared the most, just because the content strikes an emotional chord. Well, just because something is fun to read and it feels true doesn’t mean that it’s true.
Personally, I prefer concepts that are researched and put together by really smart people: Psychologists, sociologists with one or too many PhDs to their name. This is why I base my writing on psychological research and the application of these theories. I don’t like making claims without date.
This also can be observed when it comes to dating advice. Social interactions are hard to break down and are often arbitrary in nature. What might feel right to me might feel completely off to you. There’s a huge difference between writing advice and actually going out and failing nights after nights, testing out the material itself itself. This is one part of the pick up artist community got right. That was also one thing I did when I started as a pick up artist. It was to go out and fail.
It Reinforces Shame and Inferiority
Self help reinforces the idea that we’re fundamentally not enough as a human being. That we got to be something more than what our current state is. This is good for the people who are overweight, got nothing going on in their lives and need a kick in the ass to get moving.
There are two types of people that get hooked on self help material. It’s those who feel something is fundamentally wrong with them and are looking for self help as a replacement of their identity, and those who believe that they’re already a good person, but have blind spots and want to become better people.
There was a point of time in my life where I had read tons of books, was well spoken and travelled, launched a business as a dating coach, studied really hard, hit the gym regularly, and yet I didn’t feel worth of talking to some random hot girl.
It came a period of time when I thought to myself: you know what, fuck this self help shit. I don’t care about feeling better. I don’t care about being more productive. I just don’t. No number of self help books is going to help me, no amount of reading is going to help me.
The only thing that’s going to help me is to change the way I think of how I perceive myself and others.
Self help can be good as a supplement for the guys that already got good things going on in their lives. However, for the guys that are shit poor. It merely reinforces their shame and inferiority. The problem isn’t doing more or being more, it’s their perception of themselves and their world.
For self help to actually work, it’s to accept yourself as a good person that makes mistakes. Simple as that.
Some Self Help Ideas Can Hurt Rather than Help in an Asian Setting
What’s actually hard is the application of self help in the Asian cultures. I find that some of the self help concepts in Westernized cultures can’t be applied to the Singaporean setting. Asian cultural values are one of sensitivity and inclusivity, whilst many self help concepts often promote individuality and independence.
Speak up, assert yourself, pursue your passion at all cost. Instead of improving your results, you might actually get a backlash. I’ve heard tons of guys getting into the dating advice community lamenting that it’s impossible to pick up a Singaporean girl. Is it really the advice’s fault?
However, the way I see it, it’s because the way they are going about it is completely wrong. They’re using Westernized concepts such as: isolating, derogatory teasing, which goes against the Asian culture of sensitivity and inclusivity.
There are cultural nuances that aren’t addressed.
Self Help is Used to avoiding Taking Real Action
In the dating advice community, there’s a concept about ‘just being social’, Hi-fiving everyone, and the idea of ‘being social’ that’s being promoted.
People often take bits and pieces of advice out of context, and use it as a form of avoidance. If you’re Hi Fiving and handshaking everyone, it’s a feels good, but it doesn’t get the job done. You’re not confronting your fears about hitting on girls directly.
It basically means not to be a fucking creep when you’re talking to girls, and to talk to everyone in the interaction, and not just focus on the girl. You’re still going to have to hit on the girl eventually.
There was a point where I realized I was sitting in classrooms and reading up on theories where I should have been hitting the clubs, socializing and building my social skills. However, I didn’t. I became the sit at home ‘self-development’ guy. I never bothered to be more social, to take part in activities in school. I never bothered to generate new relationships.
That’s how self help can be a form of avoidance. You end up sitting at home, thinking all your need is to read yourself into success.
It took me 2 years to actually finally launch, and find consistency in this dating coach project. When I left school to attempt entrepreneurship, instead of actually running a business, I joined networking events, did freelance sales, failed at many jobs, joined more seminars and accumulated knowledge.
I did all of these without applying or testing out any ideas with consistency. The 2 years was a struggle. There were times my social and dating life went down to zilch. I did all of these, under the auspice of ‘self-development’
Taking action is the only way through. Failure is the only way through. It’s not enough to sit at home and read.
When Self Help Is Just Your Coping Mechanism
The self help and pick up artist community did one thing right for me: It taught me to shut up and go execute on what I wanted in life: Chase that girl, write a dating and relationship advice blog, build a business, travel solo, have cool experiences, and read widely.
However, in some sense, it fucked me up as well. It taught me to ‘suck it up’ and execute.
I realized how I dealt with people problems was just to take it in, and go ‘show them’ who is right at the end of the day. In moments of conflict, especially in relationships, I would hold in my anger and suppress it, in the name of self development, where it would have been perfectly justified to have been pissed off.
I coped like this through the years.
There’s a difference between ‘sucking it up’ and confronting someone about something important. I am able to assert myself in social situations, however, if you asked me to sit a good friend down and confront him about something he did that pissed me off the other day, I’ll probably avoid it
Confrontations in relationships are inevitable and necessary. You must be willing and able to piss someone off and be alright with it Your closest of friends is going to do something to piss you off eventually. However, for some reason, we spend our lives avoiding confronting these situations and relationships, living our lives in limbo, and stunting our emotional lives.I I guess that’s the problem with ‘self development’. The majority of the advice doesn’t touch on how to deal with the negatives.
When I was in University, I grew overly attached to the girl I was dating from University. She was hot, a part-time model and the sex was great. However, I never offered commitment. I felt I had the social skills to sleep with more girls. I felt entitled to socialize with who I wanted, where I wanted, and at any time I wanted. I started missing classes and wasn’t doing too well academically. I was also facing minor depression and isolation.
We broke off nonetheless.
That was when I identified myself as the “self-improvement” guy. The guy that reads, want to get into business, travel and ‘live his life to the fullest’. Underneath all that “self-development” and ‘game’, I was still an emotional mess.
I don’t think self help is all bad. There is actually some good stuff out there that can give you a kick in the ass to get you going. I think people have to be careful and objective about what they read and apply in their lives. Generally, stick to the ones with some form of research and doesn’t involve your sitting in a circle or ‘purging’ your negative emotions into the Universe.
In most cases, self help merely allows people to transfer and project their feelings of inadequacy onto these ‘gurus’, and live vicariously through them. It creates the perception of progress, and not progress itself.
You can take someone else’s ideas and philosophies into consider, however, it’s ultimately the application of these ideas to your life true that truly matters.